Dear Fr. Leo:
Will I see my dog in heaven? – M
Roy Rogers once famously quipped, “If dogs don’t go to heaven, when I die, I want to go where they went!” Not a bad thought, but to help answer this question, I like to invoke the theological principle: “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” Literally, “the law of praying is the law of believing,” or more colloquially, “As the Church prays, so she believes.”
To this end, I would direct your attention to the Eucharistic Prayer IV. It’s one of my favorites, but it doesn’t get a lot of use, unfortunately. The beauty of the fourth Eucharistic Prayer is its sweeping catechesis of salvation history, from the first moments of creation, through the people of Israel, to the coming of the Christ, to His passion, death and resurrection, to the foundation of the Church at Pentecost, all the way up to the final judgment at the end of the age when, as we read in the Book of Revelation, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth.” (Rev. 21:1)
In Latin, the Eucharistic Prayer IV refers to our entry into the Kingdom of Heaven with Mary and all the saints, “There, with the whole of creation (ubi cum univérsa creatúra) freed from the corruption of sin and death, may we glorify you…” I’m not sure about you, but for me, the whole of creation includes all of creation, not just some of it. This would necessarily include dogs and all other creatures.
There is also an argument made from the famous maxim of St. Thomas Aquinas: “That which is received, is received according to the mode of the one who receives it.”. (Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur) Thomas presupposes a hierarchy of being with the Holy Trinity at the top, then created beings such as the Blessed Mother, the angelic beings, human beings, animals, plants, rocks, and so forth. Since the Kingdom of Heaven is primarily about relationship, namely communion, then any given creature’s participation in that Kingdom would be contingent on its ability to relate to beings. The Trinity, of course, is relationship itself. Then follows the rest of us according to our nature in the order I just described. We human beings relate to God and to one another according to our nature. Likewise, anyone who has spent any time with dogs knows that they too are social beings, albeit they relate to others according to their canine nature. So, you could make a case for dogs in heaven based on their ability to enter into relationship according to their nature.